- On Thursday, the Energy & Environment Legal Institute released an investigatory report, Back to Square One: Unlawful Collusion with Green Pressure Groups Should Doom U.S. EPA's Greenhouse Gas Regulation.
- The Capital Research Center last week published Environmental Disaster: The Renewable Fuel Standard by CEI’s Marlo Lewis.
In the News
Consumers Respond to Low Gas Prices Buy Buying SUVs
Benjamin Hulac, Climate Wire, 31 July 2015
Report: EPA Broke the Law Writing the Clean Power Plan
Michael Bastasch, Daily Caller, 30 July 2015
If Wind Energy Is “Strong,” Why Does It Need Subsidies?
Kelsey Warner, Christian Science Monitor, 29 July 2015
Corporations Pledge Fealty to Obama Global Warming Agenda
Paul Chesser, National Legal and Policy Center, 29 July 2015
French Climate Ambassador Concerned over Slow Progress for Paris Agreement
Adam Vaughan, Guardian, 28 July 2015
Liberal Legal Icon Rejected by Social Circle for Opposing Clean Power Plan
Andrew Rice, New York Magazine, 28 July 2015
3 Arctic Scientists May Have Been Iced by Big Oil, Claims Professor
Robert Mendick, Telegraph, 25 July 2015
News You Can Use
Poll: 40% of Humans Don’t Know What Climate Change Is
Four out of 10 people worldwide had never heard of climate change, according to new research published in Nature Climate Change.
Inside the Beltway
EPA Reportedly Will Issue Final Rules on Power Plant Greenhouse Gas Emissions Next Week
Mainstream media outlets reported this week that the Environmental Protection Agency will release its final rules for limiting greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing power plants next Monday or Tuesday, 3rd or 4th August. The Washington Post and the New York Times both ran stories that contain details of changes in the rules provided by unnamed White House sources. It was also reported that President Barack Obama will join EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy at a White House Rose Garden press briefing to announce the rules.
According to these reports, the final rule for existing power plants, the so-called “Clean Power” Plan, will differ from the proposed rule released in June 2014 in several ways. The deadline for States to implement their plans to reduce emissions will be moved from 2020 to 2022. The EPA will offer extra credit to States that take early action to increase renewable energy and energy efficiency. Another report suggested that the final rule will give credit for nuclear plants under construction or being planned, rather than including them in the baseline.
After the final rules are released, the Cooler Heads Coalition’s web site, GlobalWarming.org, will provide analysis and links to other useful analyses. In addition, the American Energy Alliance has just created a hub for the “latest information on how States and the public are fighting back against the EPA’s so-called Clean Power Plan.”
CEI has just published my colleague William Yeatman’s briefing on some of the legal issues involved, EPA’s “Clean Power” Plan Overreach. And the Energy and Environment Legal Institute has just published my CEI colleague Chris Horner’s report, Back to Square One: Unlawful Collusion with Green Pressure Groups Should Doom EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Regulation.
Finally, it is worth noting that it was reported that Alpha Natural Resources, one of the nation’s largest coal producers, will file for bankruptcy on Monday, 3rd August. The main reason coal prices have gone down by over 70% since 2011 is the threat of EPA’s power plant rules.
Thirteen Major Companies Pledge Allegiance to Obama Climate Agenda
Senior executives of thirteen major companies went to the White House on 27th July to announce that they had signed on to the “American Business Act on Climate Pledge.” In doing so, the companies pledged support for President Barack Obama’s climate action agenda and a strong outcome to the UN climate negotiations due to be concluded in Paris in December. Individual commitments by the thirteen companies total “at least $140 billion in new low-carbon investment and more than 1600 megawatts of new renewable energy.”
The companies that signed the pledge are: Alcoa, Apple, Bank of America, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Cargill, Coca-Cola, General Motors, Goldman Sachs, Google, Microsoft, PepsiCo, UPS, and Walmart. The White House also announced that a second round of companies that have signed the pledge will be announced this fall. You may want to boycott them all.
Lots More Companies To Boycott
Ceres, the non-profit front group for businesses hoping to profit from energy-rationing policies, announced on 31st July that 365 companies and investors have sent letters to the governors of 29 States urging them to support the EPA’s regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants. The rules for existing and new plants are expected to be released in final form in the first week of August.
Most of the companies signing the letters are small to tiny, but Ceres listed in boldface those with annual revenues over $100 million and investors with over $2 billion in assets being managed. These companies include: Adidas, Aveda, Ben and Jerry’s, Clif Bar, eBay, Eileen Fisher, Gap, General Mills, L’Oreal, Levi Strauss, Mars, Nestle, New Belgium Brewing, Seventh Generation, Staples, Stonyfield, Sun Edison, Dannon, North Face, Timberland, and Unilever. Quite a few religious organizations are also on the list, including the Presbyterian Church, the Dominican Sisters, the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, and the Unitarian Universalist Association. Those keeping a comprehensive boycott list will want to consult the entire list.
Renewable Fuel Standard: Statutory Targets Lead to Disaster, Study Finds
NERA Economic Consulting this week published a study, commissioned by the American Petroleum Institute, of the transportation and macroeconomic impacts of the Renewable Fuel Standard program (“RFS2”). The study concludes that EPA’s proposed reduction of refiners' renewable volume obligations (RVOs) for calendar years 2014-2016 is essential to avert economic disaster. It also predicts EPA will have to continually prune back the statutory requirements in the years ahead.
The study includes a concise overview of how the RFS2 program works. In a nutshell, the RFS program, as extended and expanded the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA), requires refiners, blenders, and fuel importers to increase the overall quantity of biofuel sold in the nation’s motor fuel supply from 4 billion gallons in 2006 to 36 billion in 2022. EISA also establishes sub-targets for conventional, advanced, biomass-based diesel, and cellulosic biofuels. In addition, the statute authorizes EPA to adjust the targets if “there is an inadequate supply,” a criterion defined broadly by the agency to include infrastructure and market constraints limiting supply to “the ultimate consumers.” (For additional background and commentary, see my article in the July 2015 edition of Greenwatch).
Due to enormous and growing gaps between the statutory cellulosic targets and actual commercial production, and, more importantly, the market’s inability to absorb more than 10% ethanol in the nation’s motor fuel supply, EPA in May proposed to reduce the total biofuel target 2 billion gallons below the statutory goal for 2014, and more than 4 billion below the statutory goals for 2015 and 2016. Renewable fuel lobbyists would, of course, prefer that EPA uphold the overall statutory requirements. That would cause "severe" economic harm, the NERA study argues.
Here’s why. RVOs are calculated as a percentage of the total volume of motor fuel each refiner sells in domestic commerce. If RVOs exceed what refiners can actually sell to U.S. consumers, they will reduce their obligations by either producing less motor fuel or selling more fuel abroad. Reducing domestic supplies of gasoline and diesel will sharply increase gasoline and diesel prices. Given the pivotal role of transportation in the movement of people and goods, higher fuel costs will have damaging ripple effects throughout the economy. In the NERA authors’ words:
“Higher diesel fuel costs increase the cost to move raw materials and finished goods around the country, thus eventually making everything that directly or indirectly depends on transportation services more costly. Likewise the higher gasoline prices leave consumers with less disposable income. As a result of these impacts, consumption of goods and services declines. All of these impacts lead to severe economic harm.”
Senate Energy Legislation Update
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted 18-4 this week to advance the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015. Last week I described the bill as being a collection of policies that are disparate, uncontroversial, and minor. I also said that there was more bad than good in the bill, though the total impact is thankfully low (by virtue of the smallness of the policies). There’s a similarly unimpressive bill before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, so it would seem there’s a good chance of some sort of energy package being passed by both chambers.
Also in last week’s Digest, I noted that Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski promised to hold a committee vote on a bill that would lift the Nixon-era oil export ban. True to her word, the Committee this week voted to allow oil exports along a party-line 12-10 vote. It’s unclear whether the bill has the votes to avoid a filibuster. It was reported today by Energy & Environment News that some Senate Democrats are willing to support an end to the oil export ban in exchange for continuing tax handouts for wind energy. House Speaker John Boehner this week publicly threw his support behind a lifting of the oil export ban, so the bill’s congressional prospects are excellent if it passes the Senate. President Obama has not yet indicated whether or not he would veto such a measure.
Across the States
Just Like Obama, Washington Governor Inslee Unilaterally Orders Emissions Cap
Washington Governor Jay Inslee (D) on 28th July directed the state’s Department of Ecology to devise a binding cap on carbon dioxide emissions. This follows the state legislature’s rejection last month of Inslee’s legislative proposals to create a low-carbon fuel standard for vehicles and a cap-and-trade system for major carbon dioxide emitters.
The governor’s office said that they expect it will “take about a year” for the department to develop policies to reduce CO2 emissions using existing legislative authority. Part of the effort will be determining how the governor’s order can be implemented legally. Governor Inslee claims that he has the authority to cap emissions under a 2008 law that set a target of reducing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by 50% below 1990 levels by 2050.
Is Sea-Level Rise Accelerating?
The IPCC’s 2007 Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) famously declared that global average sea level increased at an average rate of 3.1 millimeters (mm) per year during 1993-2003, almost twice the 50-year average rate of 1.8 mm per year during 1961-2003. Although the IPCC said it was “unclear” whether the faster rate post 1993 “reflects decadal variability or an increase in the longer term trend,” many in the alarm camp took the IPCC’s finding as confirmation of their fears.
This week on CO2Science.Org, Dr. Craig Idso reviews numerous empirical studies on sea-level rise published since 2003. The overall picture is indeed unclear. Some researchers acknowledge that the recent acceleration may be the rising branch of a decadal oscillation. Some find similar rates during the first half of the 20th century. Some think ground water withdrawals contributed significantly to the late 20th century/early 21st century acceleration. Some find no recent acceleration or an actual deceleration.
The University of Colorado Sea Level Research Group finds no acceleration during the most recent 22-year-plus (1992-2015) period. If the estimated 3.3 mm/yr rate holds, sea levels will increase about 1 foot by 2100. For perspective, sea levels rose about 7 inches during the 20th century.
Former NASA scientist James Hansen predicts sea levels could rise 10 feet by 2100. Idso's review provides a sober antidote to such scary speculation. Now is not a good time to sell the beach house.
The Cooler Heads Digest is the weekly e-mail publication of the Cooler Heads Coalition. For the latest news and commentary, check out the Coalition’s website, www.GlobalWarming.org.